Yes, they are. Just like sisters. Tiles are coming out of the kitchen and out of the bathroom too. Not old enough to recognise the reference? Let’s get this out of the way first. One of the best sisterhood stomping’ song ever…
Got it? Marvellous, let’s move on.
Too long confined to the splash back behind the sink or the three walls of a shower cubicle, I’m spotting a UK revolution. As practical as they may be in our kitchens and bathroom, the tiles of 2018 and certainly the ones coming up in 2019 are just too darned beautiful to be so confined.
Of course the rest of the world is completely on board with tiling every surface known to man, it’s only here in the UK we coop them up. From Moroccan zelliges, azulejos in Portugal, Dutch delfts and Gaudi’s Spanish mosaics, pretty much everyone else has cottoned on to the fact that tiled walls are utterly spectacular. Is it that those countries are warmer than here in the UK and tiled surfaces have been considered cold to the touch? Or simply that other countries have long made and celebrated their own incredible ceramics?Whatever the reason, we Brits have traditionally gone on our holibobs, stood and admired, then come home and left our vertical surfaces painted or wallpapered, thank you very much. However things are a-changing. We’ve all seen the stellar rise of encaustics and hexagons in the last couple of years. Interiors obsessives keen to show off their style have gone wild with bathroom and kitchen pattern, splashing colour underfoot to capture the perfect #ihavethisthingwithfloors and sending shaped tiles spilling across walls in search of a unique and personalised look. And there’s the thing. Personalisation.
After all those bloody boring beige years, accessibility via internet shopping to ceramics from across the globe means that we literally see, click and buy. No traipsing round showrooms weighing up samples and wondering if they’ll look great in our gaff. We can all now scroll square after square of exactly how they look in someone else’s shower, add our own colour or style shift, and get the tiler booked. Or DIY ’em. Even better. We have inspiration, but now we also have confidence in how these big ticket items will look. Win win.
And now things are moving on further. Brave souls have started to ponder as to whether these glamorous surfaces deserve pride of place beyond the practical areas. Let’s take a look where and how the tiling revolution is starting to win fans and gather ground…
British wet then freezing weather wasn’t conducive to longevity with traditional adhesives, but innovative formulations are now much tougher than ever before. Couple that with new porcelain tiles which are not only as hard as nails, but also frost resistance and drop dead gorgeous, and it’s hello contemporary styled terraces.
We tiled the Moregeous terrace this summer using 300 x 1200 porcelain timber effect planks and I adore them. Well, when I say we, I mean Dave the Brave, who you’ll know from my Insta Stories. This is a job, in my opinion, not suited to the average DIYer but attempted only by professionals or highly competent amateurs. Getting falls and levels spot on over expansive areas with large format tiles is not easy… poor laying will give you more of a puddle than a patio.
These new porcelains are easy to clean, non-slip (make sure you use external versions) and add an element of sleekness to areas which would have just a few years ago been either timber decking or more rustic stone finishes.
Greys are super popular. I chose mine because their dappled shading and texture works well with my slate roof but there are so many choices on the market. The incredible popularity of the glazed kitchen extension means huge numbers of us are having to consider how our indoor spaces flow to outside. Tiled planks are perfect for the job.
Don’t feel planks are your only option though. Porcelains come in all shapes and sizes.This is a garden I designed and installed on the BBC’s Getting The Builders In. Apols for the crew, I didn’t manage to get another picture before we left! Gorgeous aren’t they? No, not the crew, the tiles! Using different materials zones the path and adds interest, as opposed to every hard surface being grey decking.
Tips here? The hexagons tiles are installed on a concrete bed, using a decoupling membrane to cope with any movement and with a slight fall to the grass to carry water away. The width of the path was measured exactly to ensure a half tile at the edge – one of the benefits of getting a tile sample way in advance of your build means careful planning and a better finish. Thinking ahead with tiles ensures less waste and more precise cutting.
From the same range we chose a patterned tile under the fire pit area, to add visual excitement and a bit of fun. They’d have been a bit too much on the whole path – do you agree? – but work brilliantly in one zoned area. Gorgeous tiling ensures practicality as the hot fire pit is now on a heat proof surface rather than the composite decking, plus panache and style.
I suggest to clients that they think of gardens as not ‘just’ gardens, but as extra rooms to decorate with greenery and flowers and also splashes of personality with interesting materials and surfaces. As Alan says, love your garden!
Chimney breasts? But that’s not new I hear you cry, loads of people tile their fireplaces. Well, yes, I hear you, and yes they do, but all the way to the ceiling? Not so much.
I’ve spotted a couple of examples of this quite daring decor choice on Insta and absolutely love them. It definitely takes a confidence in your own style to opt for this look, as tiles are both expensive and there to stay. Nothing sums up confidence like the style of 2LG and their new living space, which features, yep, a fully tiled chimney breast. In pink. Of course. And not just pink but to die for Mosaic Del Sur Zellige light reflecting pink.
Here at Moregeous HQ I’ve tiled our dining room chimney breast in luxurious subway tiles from Diesel, dappled with rust and texture. I wanted the feel of a Victorian glazed brick wall, imposing but tactile. It’s a design statement yes, but also has longevity and suits the period of the property, it’s geography and aesthetic. Built to last, like the renovation. Not something I’ll be changing anytime soon.
You need to really think about this decision if it’s one you’re going to make. Do you know your own personal style so well that you’re happy making such a permanent statement?
We haven’t traditionally made tiles for large expanses of wall surfacing here in the UK for such a long time, not since the days of the vibrant glazed ceramics in Edwardian water palaces. Tiled walls just haven’t been in fashion for decades. A hundred years maybe. Let’s face it, making individual hand-made squares under the souk sun is clearly going to be a more attractive proposition than on a rainy street in Skegness, so when most of the factories making these beauties closed down, so did our propensity to use them. Now that we can easily and more affordably get our hands on amazing glazing and Instagram has made brave decorators of even the shyest souls, our domestic walls may once again be glamorously clad.
Taking our inspo from bars and restaurants, the soft industrial vibe works brilliantly for home bars, like this area of spiritual decadence in House Curious. We all see things we love and decant them into our lives. Tiling is one surfacing way to do that and it’s interesting starting to see people choosing what are essential very hard facades. I guess, because we’re all so much better at styling now, we can soften these walls with fittings, lighting and artwork. And because we’re all so used to seeing large expanses of tiles as feature walls in commercial areas, we’re not so afraid of welcoming them into domestic areas. Into our homes.
Where the big accounts tread, others will follow. I’ve noticed Lisa Dawson and Katie Woods both taking the tile plunge in recent weeks: Lisa creating the gin bar of dreams using rich emerald metros and Katie styling a low separating wall with skinny vertical pinks. Paint would have been easy. Wallpaper little more effort. Tiling? A decisive style statement. The revolt against a throwaway society dictates that tiling is a much more permanent statement, not as easily ripped down and discarded without seeming frivolous. It’s not about following trends but about following your core style and nailing your colours to the mast. Or glueing your colours to the wall.
This shot is of a feature wall I saw last week. It captures everything fabulous about new tile tech – a textured surface of undulating ripples, astonishing depth of colour and a ‘new’ way of laying on the vertical (like Katie’s skinnies).Tiles aren’t quickly changed, unless you have heaps of disposable or get ’em for free. Paint can be changed in a couple of hours and wallpaper simply papered over, but tiles are much more permanent. Their removal will leave wrecked surfaces. And if you bore easily and don’t have unlimited budget, maybe they’re not for you.
But how glorious are they, when done wonderfully. Will you be coming out of the bathroom and still taking the plunge?